Mass 59 – 150 g (Adult)
Length 25 – 36 cm (Adult)
Wingspan 40 – 58 cm (Adult)
Scientific name Ixobrychus minutus
Higher classification Ixobrychus
|Similar Bird, Squacco heron, Ixobrychus, Purple heron, Eurasian bittern|
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The little bittern (Ixobrychus minutus) is a wading bird in the heron family, Ardeidae. Ixobrychus is from Ancient Greek ixias, a reed-like plant and brukhomai, to bellow, and minutus is Latin for "small".
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This bittern is native to the Old World, breeding in Africa, central and southern Europe, western and southern Asia, and Madagascar. Birds from temperate regions in Europe and western Asia are migratory, wintering in Africa and further south in Asia, while those nesting in the tropics are sedentary. It is rare north of its breeding range.
In Britain there were intermittent reports of breeding in the nineteenth century, and again in 1946 and 1957, but none of these records were proven. The first proven British breeding record is from Yorkshire in 1984, and the second from Somerset in 2010.
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It is a very small bittern; measuring 25–36 cm (9.8–14.2 in) in length, 40–58 cm (16–23 in) across the wings and weighing 59–150 g (2.1–5.3 oz). It is among the smallest heron species. It has a short neck, longish bill and buff underparts. The male's back and crown are black, and the wings are black with a large white patch on each wing. The female has a browner back and a buff-brown wing patch.
There are three subspecies:
The Australian little bittern (Ixobrychus dubius) and the extinct New Zealand little bittern (Ixobrychus novaezelandiae) were formerly considered subspecies of the little bittern.
The little bittern is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.
The little bittern's breeding habitat is reed beds. It nests on platforms of reeds in shrubs, and four to eight eggs are laid. It can be difficult to see, given its skulking lifestyle and reed bed habitat.
These bitterns feed on fish, insects and amphibians.